Gluttony – Cult of the Unborn (Death Metal)

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As a frequent listener to death metal, especially the Swedish kind, I obviously try to dig into anything I can find to get my fix. When it comes to Gluttony I found out about them in a weird way so I wanted to share the story. It was last years Halloween and the party I was going to had a theme, the seven deadly sins. Me wanting to be Gluttony I started doing some research and woops I found out there is a death metal band from Sweden called Gluttony! I almost bought one of their shirts just for the sake of having an easy fix on costume but in the end I got a one-piece killer clown that had a lot of mouths all over it instead… Anyways I obviously had to listen to their music and I went on the 2014 release Beyond the Veil of Flesh. I was in all honesty a bit disappointed in the album, it was ok but definitely lacked in quite a few areas to be an album I would remember. Luckily with Cult of the Unborn they manage to do just about everything better.

The core of Bergman, Henriksson and Härén from My Own Grave does a solid job and especially the drums sounds hell of a lot better on this album than on the last. The production and mix of the album is simply put just a more complete product. It’s a joy to hear these 30 minutes of classic swe-death and in all honesty Cult of the Unborn can dance with most of the classics out there that’s how good it is. Magnus Ödling (ex-Diabolical, ex-Setherial) on vocals is perfect for the sound and rounds up the band well. A very tight album and a big surprise to me that’s sure to end on my best of list when the year is coming to an end. I get a lot of similar feelings that I did with Firespawn and their 2017 release The Reprobate which was also an album that did everything so much better than their debut Shadow Realms ever did. You won’t find much better death metal than this coming out during the year I can assure you of that.

Label: Vic Records
For fans of: Entombed and Grave
Release date: April 7th, 2018
Favorite song: The Casket Master
Score: 4/5

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Augury – Illusive Golden Age (Technical/Progressive Death Metal)

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As I stated in my review of Where Owls Know My Name by Rivers of Nihil one of my favorite tech-death bands is Beyond Creation, a band many sees as the forefront of progressive technical death metal. Before that band even existed we had Augury though, a band I have to say I personally haven’t listened to simply because I didn’t even know they existed. The band formed in 2002 and released their debut album Concealed in 2004 (a year before Beyond Creation were formed) with the follow-up Fragmentary Evidence coming out in 2009. Both are said to be milestones within the genre to many but since then the band has been quiet, until now.

The album opens up with the title track Illusive Golden Age and instantly I draw a lot of connections to Beyond Creation and Obscura. Which is a good thing and after hearing their older albums right before writing this review I realize Augury’s sound has stayed the same since the debut. The transitions between solos and change of pace is definitely something Augury has learned to master and throughout the album you get hit with one sweet solo after another. There is one big thing that bothers me with Augury though, the clean singing. I wish they stayed to growling all together as to me it fits a lot better to the music. Which is also a big reason why I for example like The Living Vault a lot better than Illusive Golden Age, because there they stay away from the clean singing and it just sounds hell of a lot better.

Seeing as I just reviewed Rivers of Nihil it was impossible not to have the two albums compete a bit against each other. Fact is the two bands have completely different takes on metal as Rivers of Nihils latest album brings so many influences into their music and in some ways break barriers on how tech-death should sound today. Whereas Augury does what Augury does best, a class progressive death metal album which is basically just as good as their past albums and a statement to the newer kids on the block that they are back in action. The main difference is Augury was one of the bands that were ahead of their time back when they first started and a lot of bands have them to thank for what is the core of prog-death today. It’s expected for them after such a long break to come back and give their fans what they crave for. Me being a new listener to the band I’ve learned something new about the whole prog-death scene with not just having found a great album but a whole discography to keep with me at all times.

In conclusion Illusive Golden Age is a wicked album that showcase everything Augury stands for which will surely bring back old fans and add new ones to their ranks. It’s a rebirth from a band that was once ahead of its time and is now in sync with modern prog-death that might as a matter of fact be to their advantage. My favorite tracks include The Living Vault together with the two most hard hitting, brutal tracks on the album Mater Dolorosa and Parrallel Biospheres.

Label: The Artisan Era
For fans of: Obscura and Beyond Creation
Release date: March 30th, 2018
Favorite song: Mater Dolorosa
Score: 4/5

Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name (Technical Death Metal)

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Let me start with saying that Rivers of Nihil is as a matter of fact one of my favorite techdeath bands and have been for years now. Together with bands like Beyond Creation, Archspire, Decrepit Birth, and Spawn of Possession it’s a band I always go to when I have the urge for some technical and progressive metal. There’s always been a feeling that Rivers of Nihil has never unlocked their full potential though and in some ways lacked in their own sound and identity. That being said I had really high hopes for Where Owls Know My Name as the singles I’d heard before were really something completely different from their older music which seemed to have sparked something brand new.

For those unfamiliar with Rivers of Nihil the band was formed in 2009, hailing from USA, has two EPs and two full-length albums released prior to Where Owls Know My Name. Their albums are focused on the different seasons, with the past two albums “Whereas the Conscious Seed of Light” and “Monarchy” were about Spring and Summer. Where Owls Know My Name obviously continue walking on this road with the focus here being on Autumn. The music have always had a lot of emphasis on creating an atmospheric feeling to it more than your common techdeath band which makes the band stick out in my eyes but also means, for some, Rivers of Nihil is a band you get or you don’t. Some even going as far as saying this isn’t technical death metal. Each to their own I guess, I don’t really care if they are labeled atmospheric techdeath, prog, jazz or whatever personally I think Rivers of Nihil are doing a superb job creating music that has a lot of emotion to it with sweet melodies and brings harmony, no matter what label you put on it.

Where Owls Know My Name takes their song-writing to a whole other level. Rivers of Nihil have really captured the atmosphere of Autumn with this one, especially with the great use of keyboards, trumpets, cellos and saxophones that makes this album a whole other beast than their previous releases. It’s really impressive and I get a new feeling each time I take the album for a spin. It is an album I do feel you need to be in a certain mood to listen to though in order to fully grasp and understand it though, seeing it is quite different and the influences are many. They’ve left most of their core sound behind and this album has gone even further into the atmospheric sound than ever before, even having a jazz feel to it. Breaking their own boundaries. That to me is a much welcoming move but I can see it perhaps leaving a few fans shaken up by it. Rivers of Nihil have only evolved though and grown even better in my eyes. Where Owls Know My Name is one of the best albums released this year that gets even better with each listen. This is what technical death metal is all about to me, full of emotions through instruments, breaking barriers, creating an atmosphere you could only dream of. Just listen to The Silent Life, A Home, Where Owls Know My Name or the instrumental track Terrestria III: Wither and you’ll see. It might not be for everyone but for me it’s close to a five, the bands best album to date, and I can’t wait to hear what Rivers of Nihil do next after having ascended into a new being.

Label: Metal Blade Records
For fans of: Decrepit Birth and Fallujah
Release date: March 16th, 2018
Favorite song: The Silent Life
Score: 4.5/5

Pestilent Reign – Pyres (Death Metal)

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Looking for breakdowns that slay, vocals that could scare the hell out of your grandmother and riffs that makes your neck break due to all the headbanging you will do? Then look no further because Pestilent Pyres got you covered. So far the more brutal death metal scene hasn’t had too much action in my opinion. Sure it’s only April but time flies and we all urge to get some neck breaking, go bananas style of death metal every once in a while. Last year we saw bands like Suffocation, Dying Fetus, Gutslit and more hit us with the brutality we crave. It would be nice to have a similar year every year of course but I understand it can’t always be like that.

However Pestilent Reign makes a superb effort to make 2018 just as good of a year. Instantly “Martyr” almost catch me off-guard with it’s hard hitting death metal but it’s when “You Will Kneel in Piss and Blood” the real action comes. Holy shit this song made me go wild. It has everything you want, fast paced brutal death metal with a lot of technical aspects into it and a solo to die for at the end. Dying Fetus, Defeated Sanity, Misery Index and Psycroptic becoming one of sort. Speaking of Defeated Sanity, Pestilent Reigns logo made me think of the band straight away but seeing one of their band members having a Defeated Sanity hoodie on made it quite clear they are probably big fans of the band.

“Saviour” brings and even more technical aspect to it, a bit less of the brutality but with more sick riffs instead. “Pyres” keeps on doing this throughout the entire album, taking in different influences, doing great justice to them and be it technical, brutal or simply death metal they pull it off. The album feels rewarding to listen to with a sweet balance between different takes on death metal which is sure to bring the listener some headbang worth material. Personally I would love them to stay on the more brutal side of things like they did with “You Will Kneel in Piss and Blood” and “I.M.T.R.M.” but whatever road they choose to walk on I am sure it will be great as the band evolves. A thing that holds me back from choosing the big scores with Pyres is due to half the album feeling a bit weaker than the rest. The tracks I will take with me from the album are definitely “You Will Kneel in Piss and Blood” together with “Zealot”, “I.M.T.R.M” and “Gutter’s Filth”. These songs present Pestilent Reign at their best from different perspectives. However the rest were “only” good. Great album that could almost have been a masterpiece from the 2018 releases but for now I am happy to have found a new band to follow on their wicked path of death.

Label: Rising Nemesis Records
For fans of: Misery Index and Psycroptic
Release date: March 16th, 2018
Favorite song: You Will Kneel in Piss and Blood
Score: 3.5/5

Hellish God – The Evil Emanations (Death Metal)

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Have to start with saying Hellish God is such a good name for the band. Because this is fast paced heavy death metal in the veins of Krisiun, Malevolent Creation and Deicide. Which you know is good stuff. The intro builds up with some nice piano which then unleash the Hellish God on Qlipoth. The album never really stops either. It offers 30 minutes of pure death metal of the more brutal kind. There are definitely a few songs I like more than others though. With The Hindering Ones and Tagimron is Summoned being the two tracks that’s been played the most after the first listen. The Evil Emanations is a solid debut full-length from Hellish God which is a great follow-up to their EP Impure Spiritual Forces.

Having members from Antropofagus, Imposer and Mindful of Pripyat have surely helped this band as you can tell it’s experienced musicians at work. This also marks the first time I listen to a concept album focused on Qlipoth, metaphorical shells which represent evil spiritual forces in the Jewish mysticism. Now that’s evil.

Label: Everlasting Spew Records
For fans of: Malevolent Creation and Krisiun
Release date: January 8th, 2018
Favorite song: The Hindering Ones
Score: 3/5

Thousand Eyes – Day of Salvation (Melodic Death Metal)

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Isn’t melodeath lovely? There are few subgenres that I like as much as melodic death metal. Maybe it’s due to me being Swedish and it’s in my blood and bands such as In Flames, Sonic Syndicate, At the Gates etc got me into the whole metal scene. I don’t know but something in me makes me go bananas when melodeath is on. So what about Thousand Eyes? Actually I’d never heard about the band before I visited Tokyo last year. After getting to know a fellow metalhead he invited me to his home to grab some beers and listen to music. There he presented Thousand Eyes to me, a Japanese band who prior this album had released two albums named Bloody Empire and Endless Nightmare. After hearing some from both albums (while I shared some Swedish death metal obviously his way) I got hooked. It’s nothing original but as I said before, melodeath is in my blood and when it’s done well I am not one to complain.

Thousand Eyes offer the listener a lot of energy, aggression and class riffs. Granted I think there are a few too many on the album as it almost becomes a power metal album in that sense. Too much melodic too little death metal if you get what I mean. I know Thousand Eye’s guitarist Kouta both write and produce the albums so it’s not strange there is a lot of emphasis on the guitars, which I am sure their fan base love mind you. Each to their own I guess but there can be too much of the sweets in my opinion. Like a Soilwork, Disarmonia Mundi (I think the singer sounds quite a bit like Björn Strid actually) and Mors Principium Est mix. At times there are almost a bit of thrash elements to it as well.

All in all this is a well produced album, production have become a lot better since Blood Empire in my opinion, that a lot of melodic death metal fans will devour and enjoy. Compared to what I’ve heard coming this year from giants like At the Gates they are a few numbers short though. Thousand Eyes continues fine-tuning their sound and even though I don’t agree with the direction they are going 100% it’s still a good album that will please their fans.

Label: Bloody Empire
For fans of: Soilwork and Mors Principium Est
Release date: February 21st, 2018
Favorite song: Day of Salvation
Score: 3/5

Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram (Death/Black Metal)

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What’s that sound? It’s the sound of a black metal tank coming in full speed. I’m not going to lie Necrophobic has been one of my favorite bands last years (I honestly didn’t listen to them much until a couple years ago) and Mark of the Necrogram was my most anticipated album for 2018. Thing is with having really high hopes it can crush your expectations completely leaving you unsatisfied and probably give the album more backlash than it might deserve (as I did with Origins album last year). However with the case of Necrophobic and Mark of the Necrogram it’s done something hardly any albums do. They live up to my high expectations and more! Hell here I am halfway into the album when I start writing this and I am ready to say this is the best album Necrophobic ever released. I will let that one sink in for me a bit first though since this album needs to grow on me a few months, let the hype die down a bit, before I go and say something crazy like that. Because you know what? Necrophobic got a discography worth dying for. Their full-length debut The Nocturnal Silence is considered one of the best extreme metal albums ever and even their “weaker” (I still think they freaking rocks) albums such as Womb of Lilithu and Bloodhymns would demand huge sacrifices to pull off.

From the self-titled opening track Mark of the Necrogram to Undergången this album never stops delivering. Be it guitar riffs, blasting drums or Anders incredible vocals nothing is left to chance as they all perform as if possessed throughout. This is almost 50 minutes of pure dark magic. I just need to add that the news of Unanimated making a return and releasing a new album later this year is the only album within the black/death mixed realm I can see being as good as this. That’s a big maybe too as I got no clue how well Unanimated will perform in 2018. We are only two months into this year but I hereby set my first perfect score of the year. This one will be hard to beat and we already got a strong candidate for album of the year. Hell I am quite sure Mark of the Necrogram will be an album the metal community talks about years from now. Sweden are off to one of the best black metal starts ever with Watain, Tribulation and now Necrophobic putting out some of their best releases ever. The black king that is Necrophobic is back and there will be no prisoners.

Label: Century Media Records
For fans of: Dissection and Unanimated
Release date: February 23rd, 2018
Favorite song: Tsar Bomba
Score: 5/5